Thursday, January 20, 2011

Lego Lock-In

Today I am hosting a Lego Lock-In!

Team Storm System goes to competition in just over a week, and we have a lot to polish before that day.

In order to avoid trying to schedule a bunch of meetings next week, I decided to do most of it in one large lump. Hence, a sleep over. A working sleepover. The boys will arrive about 6pm, and we will get going on the robot game at 6:30, and off we go!
We will cap off a night of working with ice cream sundaes and a movie. Then, BEDTIME!!! And, yes, I am going to be mean about it!  After all, we have to spend most of the next day with each other. Since they normally want to strangle each other by the end of a regular Friday meeting, sleep is imperative to survival at our sleepover!

9 boys. 1 robot.

One of the boys asked me - "Do we have a chance of winning anything?"

After the Qualifier, I will never answer "no" again. But the Qualifier was 28 teams. This time there will be 52 teams, and all won a place in this.
Do they have a chance? Of course. With the research project.
Will it happen? Who knows. Anything is possible. We are not expecting anything.

But for our first season, we have done really well and have nothing to regret.

See ya on the other side!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

My Sleep Gripe

pic by jade, morguefile. Titled "Greta's room". Don't know who Greta is, but I want her room.

Sleep. Sometimes I dream about it. But I'm not sleeping, so it must be a daydream.

Since the Mad Toddler has been born, I cannot enough sleep. My body is like a black hole of sleep. Never enough. Maybe because the older three were born closer together, but I can remember plenty of times where there were nights of little sleep. Sure, it was hard, but I was young and hardy and I managed.
Even when Cookie Boy was a baby. He woke up every hour-and-a half until he was past eight months old. ArtGuy and I were severely sleep deprived during that period! Poor ArtGuy had a lot of car accidents in that period of time, and I am convinced it was sleep deprivation - it is the only time he ever wrecked our vehicles!

But since the Mad Toddler...I feel like Sleeping Beauty. Well, I feel like I could be Sleeping Beauty if everyone would leave me alone and just!

ArtGuy did a lot of the getting up with kids over Christmas Break, and I actually started to feel like I was catching up on sleep then. But since he went back to work, I am back to feeling a bit like a zombie.

"To sleep perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub." (Hamlet)

I remember when Romeo was about 2 1/2 and finally started "sleeping in" until 8 or so. Bliss! Life became bearable again.
The Mad Toddler still does not sleep particularly well. It is much better than it was a few months ago, but we are not guaranteed an unbroken night's sleep. And no matter when you put him to bed, the Mad Toddler wakes up at the same time every morning - around 6:30am. That is too early!
6:30am is early in and off itself, but it isn't just the getting up. It is the being "on call" to the demands and whims of a two-year-old! I just cannot muster up the enthusiasm for "guess what I want to eat this morning" that early in the morning.
ArtGuy, bless his heart, has been doing this duty for the most part. I did it for the older three boys, so I guess it is fair. I feel a bit bad, being so utterly wiped-out every morning, but I love that my husband takes care of me this way.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Plains of Sluggishness

Brothers and sisters:
God is not unjust so as to overlook your work
and the love you have demonstrated for his name
by having served and continuing to serve the holy ones.
We earnestly desire each of you to demonstrate the same eagerness
for the fulfillment of hope until the end,
so that you may not become sluggish, but imitators of those who,
through faith and patience, are inheriting the promises.

(taken from the first reading for today, Hebrews 6:10-20)

As I said on a facebook post this morning, I am already at "sluggish". In fact, I think I might spend most of my time there. Faith? Patience? Those are familiar words, and words worthy of striving for, but ones I rarely attain.

This reading seems to be touching on a repeated phrase in my life - keep going. The mountaintops of our lives are so wonderful - heady, exciting, full of promise, fulfilling. The valleys are torturous - painful, lonely, anguished. But most of our lives are lived on the plains.

If you have ever taken a long walk or a hike, you know about plains. Sure, they are much easier to navigate than valleys or mountaintops. No screaming calf muscles on the plains. But plains are boring. They stretch endlessly, with little to vary the scene. Your mind wanders, since there isn't much change in scenery to engage the thoughts.
I should know, living in North Central Texas, which is almost all plains. Sometimes when we drive up to Oklahoma or down to Austin, we marvel at the change in scenery. Heck, even in our own town there are hills. But of course, not where we live. Right before my neighborhood, it all evens out to the familiar flat lands.

It takes a great deal of endurance to keep going, especially on the plains, when it seems you are getting no where.The thing is, although the scenery may not reflect it, a lot of ground is being covered. Sometimes we don't realize it until we reach a change in scenery, and we regret not paying more attention to the journey.

"So that you may not become sluggish"...

Every little thing counts. Opportunities abound. Chances to love. Chances to give. Chances to engage in life. In this way, doing dishes becomes a way to "serve the holy ones". So does the morning commute, how we respond to the cashier at the grocery store, what we say when the teenager "forgets" yet again to tell you about a deadline.

And when we do these things, but no one seems to notice or care? When the thoughts begin to creep in that "if I just stopped (cleaning/teaching/volunteering/working/trying/caring/loving) no one would notice or care" - even then, keep going. Even if what you do seems to be unappreciated, "God is not so unjust so as to overlook your work and the love you have demonstrated".

Just keep going.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Monday Booger Blues

The Mad Toddler and I are sick. A little sick. Not fever-raving, laying-in-bed-sick, but just miserable enough for the Mad Toddler to whimper every now and then and say, "My boogers are stuck"!  I feel your pain, my friend.

There has been nothing accomplished today. I have basically laid around all day, feeling under the weather. ArtGuy is off work today, and he is getting the middle boys' bathroom painted. In general, I am not a fan of white walls. I need color. White has its place, but in my home, with four boys and their friends, white quickly becomes greeny-gray. Blech. So the boys' bathroom is becoming the same nice green as the Young Adult's bedroom. It looks great!

This past weekend was really nice. I got to go to a girls' night out, which was fun and relaxing. Lots of good food! Even better "hanging out" with friends time!
Yesterday we went to my mom's house. "Sundays with Mom" has been pretty much a tradition in our life since we moved close to her 12 years ago. The kids always look forward to seeing her, and we usually have a great time. A year ago, my mom made a big change. She sold her home and bought a new house with two of her sisters.
Now the advantage to this new living situation is that my kids have like a concentrated grandma thing at that house. In addition to Granny, there are now two great-aunts who miss their own grandkids and get to dote on mine instead! The kids glow under their deep love for them. And did I mention that they like to cook? Yesterday was chili (frito chili pie and chili dogs), fresh peach cobbler, and ice cream. Yuuummmmmmm!

Now I have to go rescue everyone from the Mad Toddler, who is doing his best to get in everyone's business!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Random Thoughts

1. Today is Friday, which is good and bad. A five-hour lego meeting today means it is a long and difficult day that almost guarantees me a headache at the end. On the other hand, it is Friday, which means weekend! Whoo hoo!

2. I am trying a new approach today: I am not cleaning before the Lego meeting. I WILL vaccuum the floors, but nothing else. Why bother? I can tidy up after the herd of boys leaves.

3. The Vatican has announced John Paul II will be beatified on May 1, 2011! Viva la Papa! This man did more for the young people of his day than many realize. After the misunderstanding of what Vatican II meant and the poor implementation of the changes it brought, the Church was brought to a state of identity crisis. For those in the Church of my generation, the JPII generation, well...who knows where we would be now without his influence!  He truly shepherded us. He called us by name, proclaiming that we were the future of the church. It was time for us to wake up and become the people of God we were meant to be. He made it clear that our very youth was our advantage, and he fanned the flames of enthusiasm under us so that we became eager to embrace the glory of the heritage of faith that was ours. I think of his words to the crowds at World Youth Day in 1993 - "I say to you....good morning!" He repeated it over and over until he woke the crowd up (difficult, as we had spent the night on the freezing plains of the meeting area). He did not rest until our response was no longer automatic, but a thoughtful, joyful ringing out of the day's glorious beginning.

4. My house smells like poop. The Mad Toddler. I can't wait until he is fully potty-trained.

5. The snow is finally disappearing. It has taken a while this time. We went about four days below freezing in my area, which is a tad unusual.

6. I swore to myself that I would not yell at the Young Adult today, but have already had to scream his name three times. He just does not get "boundaries"!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Greater Good

Sometimes I forget what is really, truly important in life. We all do. It happens. We get caught up in the small mundanalities of living, and forget to spend much time contemplating "whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable" (Phil 4:8).

But sometimes it hits me over the head - what the real goal is. Who I am really trying to please. What is absolutely, finally important.

If in the end, I please God, everything else is right.  If in the end, I am so busy chasing my tail to please everyone else (including myself), nothing -NOTHING - is right.

That is what St. Augustine meant in his famous quote from The Confessions - "You have formed us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you."

 Of course, it always comes down to the greatest juxtaposition - how to live in the world without being of the world. In other words, how to truly be present to those around us, how to understand the world and the things of this world without becoming absorbed in them. Without getting sucked in and forgetting, losing sight of that greater vision of what is true and pure and worthy.

My children are what keep me grounded on both sides.They certainly keep me in the world. Trying to figure out how to feed and clothe them, how to teach them social graces, how to navigate through life. I become firmly turned towards how to work in and with the world. Ask me about Spongebob Squarepants, Star Wars, computer games, Wii games, the proper use of the adjective "beast" in a sentence (as in, "Hey man, did you get the level up in Pokemon HeartGold? Awesome! That is so beast!") - I can totally do that.
I can also blend in a crowd, watch Modern Family, and get information off of Slate, Yahoo, and Mental Floss. I can so do the world thing. Sometimes too well.

But my children also help turn my head back towards the good and pure. Their innocence, their purity, their honest goodness. The very act of struggling to find the right way to raise four boys into good, strong men of character finds me falling to my knees at night.

Even still, I forget. I lose my way.

Not completely. I never forget God is God, but I often forget to give Him His due.


This is the lesson I am trying to absorb this week.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Bad Writing Night

Since I promised myself to really get back to writing once the new year began, I thought tonight would make a good beginning.
I have two pieces of paper on my wall above the computer. One lists three fiction pieces I want to work on and the other lists three non-fictions pieces to work on.
I chose non-fiction tonight. I thought it would be good to start small and work on a little piece for the religious ed classroom.


Nothin', baby. I got nothin'.

And there is nothing scarier to a writer when there is nothing coming. You always wonder, "Is that it? Did I do all I am capable of doing? Maybe I am not really a writer. Maybe I am just a dabbler and it has all dried up...forever."

Everything I started to write sounded so trivial. Drivel.

Now it is just past 11pm, and I need to get to bed so I can handle the day with the boys tomorrow with some amount of dignity.

First Day of School

First day of school for 2011!

A three week break means no one was performing at "genius" level today. Overall, it was not too bad. I think the boys were glad to get back to a schedule (though they will never admit it).
I am not so happy! I enjoyed my break, and just being a mom. Well, I also have done little laundry in over two weeks now. It is amazing how laundry is when I only have to do laundry for ArtGuy, the Mad Toddler, and myself. I cannot believe it has been over two weeks since the big boys had clean laundry. I KNOW they are wearing dirty clothes. I think I am about to ban anyone going out of the house in dirty clothing. We will see.

As I sit here, airing out my smoky house because I apparently added too much EVOO to the baked potato skins, or used EVOO when I didn't last time...not sure where I went wrong, but I know my house is full of smoke and there is still 40 minutes to go - anyway, I am adding pictures of the snow we are enjoying! the Mad Toddler is never going to believe it hardly snows in North Central Texas. Not after the past two years!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Will It, or Won't It

The forecasters cannot get their story straight. First, it was going to rain, then turn to snow (maybe, and just a little bit) around noon on Sunday.
Now one place is calling for the snow to start falling at 1am, another is forecasting ice/sleet overnight and up to 4 inches of snow before noon on Sunday.

And yet another admits they have no idea what is going to happen overnight or tomorrow!

Still, it will be the first snowfall in the north central Texas area this winter!

I have my mittens ready!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Standing Tall

Laundry - still there!

The Young Adult's closet. Ugh.

Cookie Boy and Romeo. Beyond words.
A little perspective
Bigger than the Mad Toddler
How big IS it???

The top of the laundry pile is over 3 feet tall. And the bucket is wide.
Oh dear.

I have no idea if the clothes they are wearing are clean of dirty (but I can guess)!

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

My Little Social Experiment

I really hate laundry.

I do a lot of things in my life as mom/housewife/homeschooler. Laundry is one of the things I end up doing almost every day, but one of the things I hate the most.

The worse of it is that the majority of the people I serve by doing laundry in my house seem to treat that service with little respect. Hours and hours of my time are spent - every week - on washing, drying, and drying, and sometimes drying again, then sorting and folding. Sometimes I have help, but usually not.

Time and again I walk into the bedrooms to see the same laundry I just labored over cascading out of drawers,, jammed is a better word - jammed into dressers with wild abandon, wrinkled and creased and neglected.

Around Christmas, I told ArtGuy I was done serving the masses. I will help them, but I am not killing myself by doing their laundry on my own.

One week ago, Romeo and Cookie Boy, who share a room., politely told me their laundry bin was full. I told them I was all ready for them, and to go ahead and toss their laundry down. Did they? Nooooooo. On Sunday they wailed there were no clean pants for church, and I reminded them that they neglected to hand over their laundry. Have they since then?
 You be the judge.
This picture does not capture the horror

This pile is at least 4 feet tall.. Not an exaggeration!

Their laundry pile would literally bury the Mad Toddler alive.

I am not going to remind them. They will or they won't. Their call.

The Young Adult returned home from Boy Scout winter camp to a clean room and an empty laundry bin. Out of the goodness of my heart, I did all his laundry while he was gone. Well, after a week at camp, he brought a ton home. His room is right next to the laundry room. Has he done one load? Nope!
There is no "walk-in" capabilities in this walk-in closet!

Hideously ugly.

My washer and dryer have been mainly empty this week.

But my lips are sealed!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Boys that Read...What?

On this third day of the new year, I am returning to Weight Watchers (after a two week break), and returning to the pursuit of writing....again!

In that spirit, I am going to return to a post I started writing in September, but never finished. Probably because I was sobbing to myself over a pile of lego parts after a FLL meeting.

I like books. I always have. My mother still complains about the number of times she had to read The Poky Little Puppy to me, even though I am nudging closer to 40 all the time. I think I have said it before, but I will say it again - as much as I love chocolate, if I had to choose between chocolate or books for the rest of my life, I would choose books in a heartbeat. I read to live. It is like breathing to me - necessary for the functioning of life.

I have also never outgrown children's books. Certainly, I read grown-up books, but that isn't all I read. I am a regular visitor the the "Young Adult" section of the library and book store. Harry Potter, anyone? The Hobbit? The Narnia books? The Mysterious Benedict Society, the Gregor the Overlander series, Charlie Bones, Redwall, Louisa May Alcott and many many more have found their way to my hands and my heart.

I have four boys that read, as well. Okay, one doesn't read all by himself yet. For him it is still Corduroy or Green Eggs and Ham, but he does like to be read to! The other three are readers. Granted, Cookie Boy reads less than the others, but find him the right book, and you won't see him for a while.

We take regular trips to the library and book store (used and new). As my children have gotten older and their reading levels have increased, it can be harder and harder to find good books. Depressingly hard. Not that there aren't books being written all the time. New books, children's books, come out all the time. But many of them are....well, not worthy.

Many people got talking about this phenomenon in the fall, when the Wall Street Journal published an article on How to Raise Boys that Read. The author, Thomas Spence, challenges the notion that it doesn't matter what kids read as long as it gets them to read.

That is a stupid thought, anyway. Like saying to a toddler, "well, you can have as much candy as you want. As long as you eat, it doesn't matter what you eat. We will deal with that later."

Just like too much candy, a steady diet of bad writing will rot the brain. Atrophy it, at the best.

First, let me say that I have no problems with a fluffy read. I read fluff all the time. But I also read a lot of other things, not fluff. The fluff is the extra stuff, the top of the book pyramid. Not something you indulge in to the exclusion of all other things.

For girls, the current trend is vampire stuff (thanks, Stephanie-teen-angst-Meyer), and for boys, a recent onslaught of gross-out books (the Sir Fartsalot books are a good example). And for teens, boys tend to get dark fantasy and girls get the girl-power/sex driven books.
Not that there aren't new, good books out there, but publishers are going to publish what sells. And gross sells, both the body humor kind and the lets-explore-our-sexual-freedom kind. "But it is what is real and current to teens. Why won't you face it, you prude," might be what some think when I say this (concerning the trend behind teen sex/hormone books). First, let me say that no matter what my moral beliefs are, the last thing teens need to concentrate on are hormones and sexual exploration. It comes naturally enough, as it is!

I was intrigued, then a little grossed out when I picked up a copy of  Melvin Burgess' Doing It at our local used book store. This teen novel explores the sexual awakenings of three teen boys. Three...teen....boys.... Like they NEED to read about sexual awakenings! The poor kids have sex thoughts shooting through their brains at a rate of something like one every 30 seconds. Phrases like "I rubbed against her pubis" do not belong in any book (I mean, really? Ugh! There is almost no circumstance in which that is acceptable writing, except maybe a police report). And writing a book from the point-of-view of a sexually emerging 15-year-old boy FOR boys is basically writing teen porn.
And there is plenty more where that came from. Much of it is for teen girls. Lost It, by Kristen Tracy (can you guess what this is about?) and  Forever by Judy Blume show us that teen sex, sexual fantasy, and sexual awakening are strong in the teen-girl genre!

And yes, I am a prude. And no, that does not mean I cannot judge a book. Listen, writing bad literature is shockingly easy. Try it. You'll see. And I can read a book I disagree with the general morals of, except when the writing is bad! Or when it stops being writing and becomes a sensationalist, "see how real I am" impostor.

Good books, and good writing deal with real problems (or real issues) in an interesting way. A good example of current worthy lit for teens is Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games series. A quite interesting read! Whether writing fantasy or teen-awakening novels, good books can be written and usually without falling back on gross-out or explicit language.

When helping my children form their reading habits, I have found an article by Martin Cothran helpful. Titled "Harry Potter and the Attack of the Critics", Cothran explains:
" But the best defense against one idea is not fewer ideas, but more of them; and the best defense against one book is a whole host of them. Being widely read, in other words, is the best inoculation against the dangers of literature. Being widely read enables a person to not only see an idea, but, as Chesterton put it, to see through it."

My children and myself read a wide variety of books. Some of them we disagree with, and we discuss. Some
are difficult. Some are just plain fun. But some are going to stay out of my kids' hands until they are adults. They are perfectly able to read them, then. But just like I wouldn't give a gun to my 2-year-old, I am not feeding my children brain-coke, either.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Lazy Sunday

Ahhhh, a nice lazy Sunday today!

Romeo reading by the fire.

The Mad Toddler playing with trains (that is, when he is not perfecting his tooting-on-demand-skills).

Boxes and bins ready to put away Christmas items.

I spent the afternoon watching Sense and Sensibility. Ahhhhhhhh!